Fujifilm X30 / All Megapixels are Not Created Equal

With the purchase of my new (used) Fujifilm X30, I learned very quickly that the total number of pixels cannot be the determining factor to the final image quality produced by a digital camera, be it a DSLR or Mirrorless.

Some background: I have been using Nikon cameras since graduating from Art school in 1981, when I purchased my first Nikon, and F3 with an 80-200 zoom lens. My first DSLR was a Nikon D200 which I purchased in 2006. I used this camera for about 8 years, and, after discovering the Fujifilm X series of cameras, liquidated my Nikon gear in its entirety. The Fujifilm XE-2 along with a few quality lenses was my new kit, and I am extremely happy with both the image quality and handling the Fujifilm products provide.

Looking for a smaller “pocket” sized point and shoot, I started looking at the Fujifilm X70, X100T and the X30.

The X70 uses the same sensor as my XE-2, so the image quality is a known factor, but being newly released, it is still selling for a premium price of $699. And although people are raving about this camera, it’s lack of a viewfinder is a small, but not deal breaking negative for me. Add to that the non -zoom lens, and I am forced to continue my comparison search.

The X100T is highly praised for its form factor, image quality and overall handling. But, at a heft price of $1299, heck, that’s more than I spent on my “real” camera, the XE-2. No articulating LCD screen and a fixed focal length lens seem to be conspicuously missing at this price point. But it’s a good looking camera, no mistake about that.

Enter the X30. This somewhat older (2014) camera has an articulating LCD screen, a fast, 4X optical zoom lens, a great retro look, with a much more affordable price point (especially when purchased used) and a CMOS Xtrans sensor, (albeit only 12 megapixel) seemed like the way to go. Let’s not forget, this is a camera meant to be a “point & shoot”, grab and go camera.

_DSF4645

I began my search on Ebay, and quickly realized that an X30, in EXCELLENT condition could be had for between $350 and $425. Certainly a budget friendly decision! My biggest concern remained the sensor size.

I looked over to a print I have hanging on my wall, 12X18″, printed out on my Epson 3880. The image was produced with my old Nikon D200, with a file size is 3872 X 2592. The print quality is “very good” to “excellent”, and the RAW file, when scrutinized in Lightroom at 100% is really quite fine, allowing for a great amount of manipulation without excessive noise cropping up.
So, being the logical thinker that I am, I determined that a file from the Fujifilm X30, being 3000X4000 would be of equal quality if not a little bit better. After all, the file size is bigger, so the bigger the better, right?

Now, being the man of action that I am, I was off on the search of my X30. Zoom lens, articulating LCD screen, great Fujifilm build quality, and a price point, well, you know, it’s CHEAP! How can you go wrong!

Ebay. Fujifilm X30 in like new condition with all original accessories and packaging for $325 and free shipping. Buy It Now. Bought it.

It arrived via FedEx 3 days later and upon close inspection, this camera was pristine! Perfect. Everything that was promised buy the seller and more!

The Fujifilm X30 was thought to be a “back up” camera, a better alternative to my phone, it definitely has it’s limitations. In well lit situations, this camera can produce very good files capable of producing fine prints on my Epson 3880 up to 13X19 inches. Where the camera falls short, in my opinion and experience, is in low light scenes, where the results have been really “hit or miss”. The real problem is, at ISO settings higher than 800, the resulting files exhibit more noise than I like to see in an image.

I’m going to cut to the chase. The sensor is too SMALL!. The test images are sharp. The camera is a joy to handle and looks and feels great in my hands. But oh the noise! But how? Why? The file size is BIGGER than that of my ancient Nikon D200? Wait a minute…the D200 had an APS-C sensor with a 10mb file size. The X30 has a 2/3″ size sensor producing a 12mb file. Although the file size is larger than that of the D200, the sensor size produces an image that reveals noise in the shadows even while using ISO 640 in daylight conditions. And the situation gets even worse when you take a file into Lightroom and open up those shadows.

To be fair, I do still like the camera. It’s fun to use and has some great features that sometimes feel more like gimmicks than something you would find on a “serious” camera, for example the filters. “Black and White with Select Color”. Who could take this seriously, right? Well, I found myself using that very filter just the other day, and was extremely happy with the outcome. Here is an example of just just a filter:

DSCF5535

Yes, it’s fun to use and adds a playful, more casual feeling to taking pictures, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

So what I’ve learned is, megapixel count is important, but only in conjunction with the physical size of the sensor.

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